How People Overcome Crises Around the World – Part 5: Kenya |

Status: 2022-09-24 06:00

About 4.4 million people live in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. of people – some in almost unimaginable circumstances. But even they have small moments of joy in the community, amidst the waste and misery.

by Antje Diekhans

One place in Nairobi that never leaves me unmoved is Dandora. The city’s biggest garbage dump and surreal environment. Debris piles up in soft hills that are easy to sink into while walking. Columns of smoke and steam are billowing, which are said to be toxic. Many places smell terrible. Pigs and wild dogs are running around. Above it all there are marabous, large birds that use their long beaks to search for edible morsels. The place has a strange charm. It’s almost apocalyptic to be here.

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Everything that a big city spits out every day ends up in a pile. Leftovers from expensive Nairobi restaurants. Medical waste from hospitals. Junk, plastic, clothes. Dandora has long been crowded. But still, the garbage trucks continue to roll and dump their loads here.

And that is exactly what the people of Dandora are waiting for. They live off other people’s garbage. They are called scavengers, and some have built their exhausted huts right on top of the pile. Others also live poorly on the outskirts. I am always deeply humbled and grateful that I don’t have to live this way. How do people even do that? How do you get through life when the first and last thing you see every day is garbage?

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Life in the dump

As a reporter, I can only visit Dandora with an escort. I had Goku with me, one of the “bosses” of the dump. He used to be one of the gangs that terrorized the people of Dandora. Today he makes his living by marrying people like me. He’s converted, he says. We also had two more shadows: men hired by Goku to intervene in an emergency. But I only had friendly encounters.

One of them stuck with me to this day: a boy who was 13 at the time. His name is Adroncus and he is one of the many children who make money on the pile. They walk around with big bags and mostly collect plastic waste. When they have enough, they can dispose of their loot at one of the recycling sites. A plastic bag is worth a good euro. Enough for a simple meal.

Adroncus lives with his grandmother and two siblings in a shack near the pile. This accommodation can no longer be described as a hut. It is a curved shelter made of corrugated iron, which provides sufficient protection from the sun, rain and prying eyes. There is almost no remedy. Just a mattress and some kitchen utensils. The children – Adroncus, an older sister and a younger brother – are orphans. Grandma takes care of her grandchildren as best she can. She walks with a cane but still pulls together every day to raise money for food and school fees.

Great family cohesion

As I sat with the four of them in this corrugated cardboard shack, I got a big lump in my throat. As a correspondent in Africa, I have many encounters that shock me. In the Congo, I meet women who have been raped by the militia. See starving children in drought zones. Experience the desperation of refugees who had to leave everything behind and were even separated from their closest relatives. I often don’t understand where people even get the strength to carry on. But it is precisely in the most dire situations that I have often seen many develop incredible strength.

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Adroncus and his family believe that suffering is a part of everyday life. There are good days and bad days. For example, Adroncus told me about some lucky finds on the pile. Once he even discovered a working telephone. One of the gang immediately takes it from him, but he manages to hide some treasures quickly enough to get them home safely. Clothes that can be resold. A bag with almost no holes. A…

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